Early in the formation of the Church, the apostles publicly taught the people in Jerusalem that Jesus is the Messiah and that He died for our sins and rose from the dead. And God performed miracles at the hands of the apostles confirming their words by His power and presence.
We’re told that on the day of Pentecost alone “about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41) Then, just a short time later we read that so many more people believed in Jesus that their numbers swelled to “about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4)
But the religious and political leaders felt threatened by this message about Jesus that had so quickly gone viral. So they arrested Peter and John and put them in jail (4:3). The following day, these officials brought Peter and John before the council and demanded to know by what name (authority) they were preaching and healing.
“Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit,” declared, “Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8, 11-12)
The council “commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: t listen to you or to Him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ After further threats they let them go.” (Acts 4:18-21)
The apostles continued to preach Jesus publicly and many more came to faith in Him. As a result, the leaders of the people were filled with jealousy. “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. ‘Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people all about this new life.’” (Acts 5:18-20)
The leaders had issued a mandate forbidding preaching in the name of Jesus. The apostles were God-fearing men. They weren’t political dissidents. They lived upright lives in the community. For this reason, I can’t help but wonder if some of them, while sitting in jail, were asking themselves, “Are we doing the right thing by defying our officials’ mandate to stop preaching in the name of Jesus? Maybe we could do this more quietly and discretely?”
To put that question to rest once and for all, the Lord Himself sent His angel who released them from jail and told them to go back to the temple courts and preach Jesus as before. And the apostles obeyed the Lord.
When the leaders of the Sanhedrin, the religious and political council of the Jews, heard that the apostles had somehow escaped and were preaching Christ in the temple courts, the captain of the guard with his officers apprehended the apostles and brought them before the Sanhedrin.
Again, the council reprimanded the apostles, “’We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’” (Acts 5:28-29) And then the apostles preached the message of Jesus to the Sanhedrin!
The Sanhedrin answered their objection by flogging them and ordering them yet again not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then they let them go (5:40).
The council tried to intimidate the apostles with fear. But we read, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5:41-42).
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the governor of our state (and perhaps the governors of other states as well) has issued a mandate restricting the size of our worship gatherings, forbidding choirs, bands, or ensembles from performing in services, and forbidding congregational singing.
Here’s what the Lord says about that:
“Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.” (Psalm 30:4)
“Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.” (Psalm 47:6-7)
“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” (Psalm 89:1)
“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:18-19)
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16)
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” (James 5:13)
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Therefore, I respectfully declare to our governor, “We must obey God rather than you.”